Commentary

Elite wings flying high

Originally Published: January 11, 2010
By Joel Francisco | Scouts Inc.

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- The Dream Classic, an event that has featured prep stars such as LeBron James and Derrick Favors, wasn't been as star-studded as in the past, but it did exhibit a couple of high-level wing-types featured in the ESPNU Top 100. Allen Crabbe, a 6-6 senior out of Los Angeles (Price) and 6-6 senior Anthony Brown (Huntington Beach, Calif./ Ocean View) did more than enough for their respective teams to back-up their prestigious ranking.

After a pedestrian 1st half, Crabbe, headed to Cal-Berkeley in the fall, exploded for 29-points in the 2nd half to lead his team from a double-digit deficit to overcome a feisty Gahr (Cerritos, Calif.) bunch 77-65. He hit a number of tough 3s with the defense in his face, and he also tossed in a couple of nifty layups in traffic. On the other hand, Brown, who is inked with Stanford, would not be outdone by his future Pac-10 rival as he put up an impressive 32-point outing in leading his team to a 81-69 victory over La Verne Lutheran (Calif.).

Standout players

Allen Crabbe, SG (6-6, 190)
2010, Los Angeles/Price

Crabbe is slowly climbing up the national rankings due to his outstanding play. Known as a consistent stand-still shooter through the early part of his career, he is now becoming a much more complete player during his senior campaign. He still has a tendency to start slow in games, but he definitely turns it on in the second half (29 of his game-high 34 points came in that part of the game). He has an effortless stroke out to 23-feet, and he hit a few step-back 3-point shots that were Ray Allen-like. The bottom line with Crabbe is putting forth a greater effort and playing with more desire. He has improved his ballhandling and has become a more forceful rebounder. However, it is going to be an eye-opening experience for him at Cal; defense will be a significant factor in earning playing time for Mike Montgomery during the 2010-11 season.

Anthony Brown, SF (6-6, 180)
2010, Huntington Beach, Calif./ Ocean View

Brown is a very young and should be a member of the Class of 2011. He has added some much-need muscle, and as a result his game has continued to improve. Stanford standout Landry Fields had a very immature frame heading off to college and we all know how that is turning out -- Landry should be all-conference this season. Brown is highly skilled with a smooth jump shot that extends out to 22-feet. His midrange game has gone to a different level, and he's one of the better passers at the wing position on the west coast. He has gotten more effective handling the ball in transition and even threw down a couple of impressive dunks. By the time he's a junior, he should be one of the elite players in the Pac-10.

Surprise players

Avery Johnson (6-3, 180)
2010, Huntington Beach, Calif./ Ocean View

Johnson is one of the better unsigned seniors in California and he's one of its most improved prospects as well. For three seasons, he's been a solid blue-collar wing-type with a questionable jump shot. However, since the summer evaluation period, he has definitely sharpened up his stroke. He gets nice lift on his jump shot, and his release has become much smoother. He can nail it off the catch or hit the midrange pull-up. He isn't overly explosive, but he has a knack of slashing to the basket. Defensively, he has solid lateral quickness and possesses the desire to shut down his opponent. Overall, look for Johnson to get heavily recruited at the mid-major level the next couple of months.

CJ Cooper, PG (6-0, 155)
2011, La Verne, Calif./ Lutheran

Cooper has slowly, yet steadily, improved his stock each and every season. He displayed a much-improved pull-up game and his jump shot has become much more consistent since the summer. He appears to be more on balance and he's definitely getting stronger. He still has a tendency to overpenetrate, which leads to turnovers. In addition, he is more scorer than facilitator at this stage and needs to work on his decision making. He advances the ball well in transition, but he isn't a burner and he lacks that ideal second gear that college coaches covet. Needless to say Cooper Jr. has most of the intangibles to be a Div. 1 point guard.

[+] EnlargeRichard Solomon
Andrew Shurtleff Richard Solomon's game has grown tremendously in recent months.

Pangos notes

Richard Solomon, a 6-9 Cal-Berkeley signee out of Los Angeles/Price, continues to display improvement in his overall game. He is finishing much stronger around the paint area and he plays with a sense of urgency on every possession.

Kevin Smith, a 6-1 senior out of Compton, Calif./ Centennial, is headed to Washington on a football scholarship. He is definitely one of the most explosive athletes in the West.

• St. John Bosco (Bellflower, Calif.) has a good looking sophomore in 6-3 Darryl Mathews. He doesn't have a true position for the next level yet, but he can knock down the midrange jump shot and possesses solid length and athleticism.

• It's just a matter of time before 6-8 sophomore Grant Jerrett (La Verne, Calif./ Lutheran) starts dominating games. He has advanced footwork, skill, and savvy for someone so young.

Byron Wesley, a 6-5 junior out of Etiwanda, Calif., showcased his steady all-around game. He has a tight midrange skill set and quite the physique, but isn't overly explosive. If he can get more fluid on his 3-point stroke (flat shot), his stock will continue to elevate.

• Bruce English, a 6-0 junior out of La Verne, Calif./ Lutheran, is an undersized 2-guard for the next level, but he's an explosive athlete and has a real knack to score in traffic.

Joel Francisco is the West Coast recruiting coordinator for ESPN's Scouts Inc.